01 Jun 1999
Q & A: Pat Russo - Focused on the Future at Lucent TechnologiesTopics:
Patricia F. Russo (104th AMP) is executive vice president of New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies, a $30 billion communications powerhouse, where she oversees corporate strategy, business development, and corporate operations. A widely respected corporate leader, in 1998 Russo was named one of Fortune magazine's "Fifty Most Powerful Women in American Business."
Why has Lucent performed so well since its divestiture from AT&T?
We have been growing globally faster than our markets. Our ability to focus on the hottest growth segments in the communications industry - data and optical networking, wireless, software, and semiconductors, to name a few - has put us in a very strong position. We are also fortunate to be able to draw on innovations from Bell Labs to find total solutions to meet our customers' needs.
How has Lucent changed from its pre-divestiture days?
We're more focused, faster, and probably hungrier. Our independence has eliminated the strategic conflicts that we faced in trying to sell networking solutions to AT&T's competitors. That's no longer an issue, and the entire market is open to us.
How rapidly do you see the convergence of data, voice, and video networking occurring?
I would argue that there are places where it already exists. There are applications today that enable us to speak, view those with whom we speak, and work on data - all simultaneously. The challenge is less one of technology and more one of bandwidth availability. As bandwidth becomes more available, I think you'll see the rapid emergence of applications and converged services. The benefits to consumers are considerable.
What is driving the communications technology convergence?
I think the real drivers include things like productivity, enhanced communications and information access, and improved customer relationship management opportunities. We're really talking about fundamental changes in how people communicate, get information, and conduct business.
Wired for Success
Pat Russo worked for eight years in sales and marketing management at IBM before joining AT&T in 1981, fifteen years before Lucent Technologies was born. At AT&T, she held executive positions in strategic planning, marketing, human resources, and operations. In 1992, Russo assumed the position of president of Global Business Communications Systems, a multibillion-dollar AT&T business unit. She led that business through a successful restructuring and financial turnaround that has transformed it into Lucent's second-largest global operation.
Asked about her strategy for personal success, Russo replies, "I like opportunities that are new and different. I tend to focus on getting the job at hand done rather than 'what's next.'" She adds, "I've also been blessed in having worked for some great people who have provided me with the latitude necessary to grow professionally.
What challenges does all this pose for Lucent and the communications industry?
One of the challenges convergence presents for the industry is to reduce complexity and simplify ease of use. As communications capabilities and options expand, all of us who provide aspects of communications networks (including devices) must keep reduced complexity in mind.
Can you describe some of the factors that motivate Lucent's acquisition decisions?
We've announced twenty acquisitions since Lucent was formed in early 1996. Although we don't have an "acquisition strategy" as such, we are open to acquiring firms that will better enable us to execute our business strategies. For instance, when we find we have a gap in a specific talent, technology, or geographic market, an acquisition may present a strong option for closing that gap. Similarly we will consider partnerships, alliances, and other ways of supplementing existing capabilities when appropriate. Naturally we evaluate such options with an eye toward enhancing shareholder value.
Do you find there are great differences between the domestic and international markets?
Our markets are global in nature. We need to think in global terms while recognizing that we need to be what we call "multi-local." The differences that exist in our markets are influenced by geography to a degree but by many other things as well. We try to understand our customers' needs, one customer at a time.
We've talked about cutting-edge technology. What about the needs of emerging market countries?
The truth is that in many countries only a small percentage of citizens have access to communications. In fact, over half the world's population has yet to make its first phone call, let alone connect to the Internet. Emerging markets represent tremendous opportunity. We are committed to providing support at every level.
Peter K. Jacobs, a Boston-based writer, conducted this interview